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A Tribute to the Chehalem Mountains AVA
By Mary Ewing-Mulligan
Aug 16, 2016
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Adelsheim Vineyard, Chehalem Mountains (Oregon) Pinot Noir “Breaking Ground” 2014 ($45):  There would seem to be something ironic about the name of this Pinot Noir from Oregon’s Adelsheim Vineyard.  “Breaking Ground” suggests something new or revolutionary -- and in fact this is the first new wine from Adelsheim Vineyard in more than a decade -- but Adelsheim itself is as old as the Oregon wine industry.  David and Ginny Adelsheim purchased their first vineyard-to-be in 1971 and began planting the land the following year.  A true pioneer of Oregon wine, David Adelsheim had broken new ground on many occasions and in many ways.  The best interpretation of the name “Breaking Ground” Pinot Noir, therefore, is more historic than literal, a name that hearkens the accomplishments of the past for a winery on the eve of its 40th commercial vintage.

Apart from single-vineyard bottlings, Breaking Ground Pinot Noir is the first Adelsheim Pinot Noir to carry the Chehalem Mountains AVA instead of the more general Willamette Valley AVA.  Adelsheim was the first winery in that northern part of Willamette Valley, and David Adelsheim personally led the drive to recognize Chehalem Mountains as an AVA -- an effort that bore fruit in 2006. (Five other AVAs within Willamette Valley were established in 2005 and 2006.) 

The vineyards for this wine -- 88 percent of them estate-owned -- are dry-farmed and certified sustainable in keeping with the standards of Willamette Valley’s LIVE organization, which monitors viticulture and winemaking against environmental and social responsibility goals.  The wine’s vineyards also encompass the three soil types of the Chehalem Mountains AVA as a whole: marine sedimentary, volcanic basalt and windblown loess.  The vineyard sourcing across the diversity of the AVA’s terroir signals the intention that this wine be seen as an ambassador of the Chehalem Mountains AVA.  David Adelsheim describes Chehalem Mountains as a region gifted in producing Pinot Noirs of “purity and expression.”

I have always admired and enjoyed the wines of Adelsheim Vineyard and this new wine is no exception.  It is a Pinot Noir that combines fresh, flavorful, vibrant fruit with a refined structure that perfectly balances the wine’s flavor vitality.  The parts of the wine work together so beautifully that you would not be inclined to change a thing.

The vivid fruitiness of this wine is evident right away, on first whiff: cherries and black raspberries accented by a floral note and a dark spiciness.  In your mouth, the cherry notes come on strong -- fresh black cherries and red cherries, too, perfectly ripe, fresh and vivid, with spice, cocoa and tea in the mix.  The wine has a backbone of acidity that supports its flavor intensity, as do the powdery tannins that emerge on the mid-palate. The wine’s texture is silky and its finish shows more of that fresh, vibrant fruit.  The overall impression is one of elegance, finesse and vitality.

Because of its vivid fruit expression, this is a wine that is wonderful to drink now.  Its tannin structure, unexaggerated by long oak aging (the wine spent ten months in French oak barrels, of which only 27 percent were new) contributes to that immediacy of pleasure.  However, tasting the wine a day later, I was struck by its persistence.  Delightful as the 2014 Breaking Ground Pinot Noir is now, I suspect that we need not be in any rush to drink it in the short term.

 92 Points